Thursday, 21 August 2014

Postcards of the SEA

I loved this recent local art exhibition to raise funds for Brough Bay Association and Castlehill Heritage Scoiety. On hindsight, I wish I'd actually entered a postcard into the exhibition, but still, I played my part by going along and taking a look, then bidding on some of the postcards in the silent auction.

The quality of the art was astounding; there were some amazing pictures done in all sorts of different mediums. Watercolours, photographs, acrylics, drawings, name it, it was probably in there. There were entries from nearly every walk of life; from very young children to professional artists, and from loads of different countries. Taking a look through the blog gives a taste of some of the pictures, but seeing them all displayed together was amazing, especially as the sea is one my favourite subjects ever. 

The silent auction was exciting because I'd never bid in one before. It was hard to choose favourites - in the end I more or less picked five at random and placed (very small) bids on them. I think the most I bid was £11 for one, but one of the most expensive postcards ended up selling for over £100! Anyway, I was delighted to win one in the auction, this one (also pictured above, waiting patiently while I decide where to hang it) for £8.

It was a great concept and a wonderful way to raise money for a local worthy cause. And I won something! Which is always a bonus.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A couple of new house guests

(Please excuse the very shoddy phone photo - I'm off to Glasgow for a couple of days so I'm rushing to put a couple of scheduled posts together).

I'm a pet owner again! Meet Nesume and Yuuri - two female pet rats I adopted from someone who needed to give them up. Both female, around a year and a half, we think.

Nesume is the fawn and white one, the friendlier of the two. She's happy to run around the couch and explore, climbing all over us or sleeping in our pockets. She also has a habit of using me as a toilet - she never does it on Adam, always me. Which is a bit odd. 

Yuuri is a bit more difficult. Initially we couldn't get near her whereas now I can get her to sit on my shoulder and can sometimes stroke her when she's in the cage, but she isn't keen on being handled. She's going to take a lot more work, but we'll get there. Apparently they were both handled by their last owner, so I'm not sure why Yuuri is the way she is. The previous owners had three young children, so I'm not sure if maybe something happened with them that's made her wary of people. I guess if Nesume was easier to get to, perhaps they worked more with her, I don't know.

As for the names, they were Bubble and Squeak when we got them, but we decided to change them. Adam chose them. Nesume is Japanese for rat, Yuuri is Japanese for ghost. He's obsessed with all things Japanese. Personally, I wanted to call them Pumpkin and Peapod but I was shot down in flames (I still call them that when he's not around though....)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Some ramblings on introverts and online friendships


I am very much an introvert, and I loved this article that my friend recently sent me a link to.

Now, I'm not a secret introvert as suggested by the article, I'm a loud and proud introvert (contradiction intended). I spent most of my younger years assuming I was shy and wondering why I acted weird in groups, or when I was with people I didn't know. I recall having to sit beside a girl in History class, who bitched to others that I would never speak to her, but I couldn't. I absolutely couldn't and I didn't understand why. I now know it was simply because I can't do small talk. I've got better over the years but even now, it wears me out. The other thing that used to bug me was that I had a large group of friends but I barely spoke when I was with them. Yet when it was just me and one or two of them, I was fine. I just can't handle a group. End of. This has never changed; I can stand up in front of 70 people and talk about recycling with just a flutter of nerves, yet I dread my monthly team meetings. There's only seven of us in the team.

The article did surprise me though, as there are things I do that I didn't necessarily put down to being an introvert. I'm a writer, and I'm definitely a more succinct writer than speaker. I screen all calls; its rare I ever answer my mobile, I tend to leave it them gather the mental energy to call the person back. I definitely shut down if I've been active or with people too long - I feel I need to be alone and to recharge - and I get distracted very easily. If there's too much going on, be it at work or at home, I get overwhelmed.

As I said, I always assumed I was shy but being an introvert and being shy don't go hand in hand, as extroverts can be shy too. I can confidently talk to people, its just taken longer for me to develop that skill. On the plus side, it means that I only have 'good quality' people in my life. By that, I mean that if a friendship is going nowhere, or if I don't click with someone, I let the relationship die a natural death. I don't force myself on folk and I don't let them force themselves on me. I simply can't afford to waste mental energy on anyone who isn't worth it. OK, this probably makes me sound like a bit of an arse, but it makes sense to me. People always know where they stand. I won't pretend to be their friend then bitch about them behind their back. We're either friends or we're not. And those who I class as close friends (there aren't many) are worth their weight in gold to me.

I guess a lot of bloggers are introverts. Blogging (or any kind of online interaction) is a great way of communicating with like-minded folk but without using up the mental energy of having a conversation. It's done in our own time, at our own pace and if we decide we're not clicking with someone, we just stop following their blog. I do believe that genuine friendships can be created online, and I don't think its necessary to meet someone in real life in order to class them as a friend. There was a time where I wouldn't have agreed with this, whereas now, I know from experience that it's possible.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about online friendships - are we 'friends' or just 'people who know each other online'?

Monday, 11 August 2014

What running on the beach in the morning has taught me about life

I used to love an early morning run on the beach. Two years ago I lived a ten-minute (if that) drive away from a long, sandy and secluded rural beach which I would run on at least three times a week. I now live less than a minute from a small, much less rural sandy beach and until recently I hadn't run on it once.

Now, I just want to make something clear. I am not a fan of 'running'. I am a fan of 'running by the shore' or 'running on the beach'. Therefore I either run on the beach or I don't run at all. The reason I'd never taken to running here is because I suspected the beach would be busier, given that its in the town, and as its such a smaller beach, I wouldn't have as much space to myself.

But one morning, after months of putting it off, I bit the bullet and I ran. It was amazing. The beach was vast, windy, open, cold, alive. And for most of the time I was by myself. As I did my second length I noticed a woman come down to the beach with a bucket. I said a breathless hello as I jogged past, trying to pretend I wasn't about to keel over due to having not run for over a year (especially seeing as I recognised her as a PE teacher from my High School days, now retired) but never took much note until I stopped farther along the beach and looked back. I could see her walking about, looking as if she was picking things up, but again I didn't take a huge amount of notice. I was too busy taking in the gentle swell of the tide as it eased further up the beach, and the seabirds pottering around on the shoreline.

A few days later, I found out via chance conversation that this woman comes down to the beach every morning and clears up all the litter from the day before, be it deposited by visitors or by the tide. How bloody awesome is that?!

It's really made me think. To be fair, the beach is a clean one, and its pretty much free from litter; now I know why. Also, I felt that morning that the beach was mine. But this has made me realise that at this time of the day, the beach is hers. Very much so. It's such a selfless thing to do. I don't know what motivates her but I'd love to find out, and I admire her for it. In this day and age life can be so devoid of purpose, yet it's small, quiet gestures like this that can mean the most - not to everyone else using the beach, but to her. Knowing that she's contributing to society every single day, in her own way.

I'm heavily involved in litter and environmental issues anyway, but this woman's actions have inspired me even further. I never drop litter myself but unless I'm on an organised pick, I tend to walk past any. But now, if I see an abandoned juice can or sandwich wrapper, I'll pick it up and put it in the nearest bin. And when I do so,  I think about this woman and offer her a silent thanks for giving a shit when many others don't. Through me, and any others who do the same, she's managing to keep the town clean without even being there. 

I'd love to be as inspirational as that some day. And one morning, when the beach is hers, I intend to tell her this.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Why I now hate starlings

I was sitting with my parents in their garden, the same spring day that I went for a walk in the big forest. This starling was sitting on the branch above me.

My Dad: That's one of those damn starlings that's nesting in the shed roof. I'm going to block that gap up!

Me: Aww, wait until the babies have gone, they've been nesting there for years

Dad: They're shitting on everything, they're nothing but flying rats.

Me: They're actually really pretty if you look at them, all speckled and there's different colours. Green, pink, white. Saying that, I'm sitting right below this one, hope it doesn't shit on me!

Conversation continues on a different subject. Barely a minute later, you can guess what happens...

Me: That's what I get for defending it. Stupid starlings, I hate them. They shit on everything.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Why I fed my To-Do list to the worms

I've always been obsessed with goals and to-do lists. I have goals for all areas of my life - work, home, writing, eating, exercise - and I write to-do lists on a daily basis. And yes, I'm one of those twattish people who write down things that are already done just so I have the satisfaction of scoring them off my list. I have weekly to-do lists, daily to-do lists plus a big massive brain dump to-do list which never shrinks no matter how much I do because there's always something new to be added.

Why, though? For various reasons.

  1. To remember stuff. I'm very forgetful, especially with regards to mundane stuff like errands and things that need fixed

  2. To feel productive. It's satisfying to look over a to-do list at the end of a Saturday or a goals list at the end of the year, and say look what I did.

  3. To give life a purpose. Sounds a bit sad but I always feel insecure when I don't have a list to look over to prove to myself that my weekend/day off/evening/year actually was worth living. 

  4. As a controlling mechanism. I'm a terrible control freak, and I've always felt more in control knowing when something will get done, and also knowing I won't forget things.


Recently, I've become a bit tired of the whole goals/to-do list malarkey, here's why.

  1. It's never-ending. I felt like I was treading water; no matter what I did there was always other things needing done - OK so I've dug up the earth round the driveway but the garage door now needs replaced and the shower screen needs fixing. Plus there were things that I never seemed to get around to; decluttering the kitchen cupboard is something I want to do but it doesn't seem important so I never get around to it. 

  2. My life was losing spontaneity. Oh! I need to write a short story this week. It's now Sunday so I'll need to forfeit that barbeque/other fun thing to make sure I do it. (and inevitably the stress of having to write a short story meant a short story would never materialise, just a rambling couple of pages about how stressed I am and how life is shit and I'm a shit writer, blah blah blah...). I would focus on what I'd told myself I had to do, and as a result I was missing out on opportunities. 

  3. They're bloody stressful. Because yes, I'm one of those that beats themselves with a metaphorical rod if the weekly to-do list isn't all neatly scored off by Sunday evening.

  4. Goals are always in the future. I want to write a novel. I want to go to Japan/Berlin/San Francisco/insert cool place here. I want to eat clean. I want pets. I want to blog at least once a week. I want, I want, I want but I never get there because the goals are too big for me to see where to start.

So, the solution? I got a sheet of A4 paper (a sheet that had already been printed on one side and was destined for the recycling bin, of course, because, well, you know...) and I wrote the biggest list you'll ever see. I swear. It had nearly sixty items on it. Stuff that needed done, things I needed to remember, short-term goals, long term goals. They all went on this list.

Then I ripped it up, put it in the compost bin.

That was at the start of July. In July alone I have now achieved the following:
  •  I've written three short stories, edited a load more
  • I've sent four stories to competitions/magazines*
  • I've given up on fighting with my novel (for now at least)
  • I had hypnotherapy*
  • I've signed up for a meditation class*
  • I've started running again*
  • I've started getting my front garden under control*
  • I've decluttered two rooms*
  • I've started eating better, cooking from scratch more and cutting down on sugar and polyunsaturated fats*
  • I've found a course I want to do and have started saving
  • I've made an enquiry about volunteer work*
  • I've started tidying up my blog, added Disqus and bought my domain name*
  • I've cleared out my email inbox*
  • I'm moving slower through life, appreciating more
  • I'm spending more time with friends and family, and making more of an effort to make time
  • I've tidied out my garage*
  • I've started working on the crotchet cushion cover I started over a year ago*
  • I'm getting more stuff done at work, notably the non-urgent stuff that's been kicking about for ages*
All those with stars had been on my mega to-do list for aaaaaaaaaaages. Now, I haven't done anything ground-breaking with my new-found freedom but seriously, I know I'm at risk of sounding all new age, but it really has changed my perception of life and of myself. I've proven to myself that I can be motivated. I can do stuff without prompting. The stuff that needs done just seems to rise to the surface and I'm getting on with it, no stress to get it done by a certain day, just a knowledge that it will get done. And I'm remembering to do it! Without prompting! And if I forget, and something doesn't, its probably not that important anyway.

I think the biggest realisation has been that I've always been chasing a future moment. Rather than have a goal to write a novel, cultivate a mindset to be a writer. The writing will follow. It's about being, not doing. Slow down and be, rather than go fast and do. Or something like that. It all sounds very zen. But its working for me, and that's the main thing.

And it seems like I'm not the only one. Check out Leo and Joshua's stories too.

OK, so who else is a list/goals junkie? Could you live without them? 

Friday, 1 August 2014

Littoral Art Project - dealing with sea litter

landfill mound
Photograph by Julia Barton
Littoral is a science/art project by artist Julia Barton, that explores the ever increasing volumes of litter washed up on beaches. As part of this, Julia collected a bag of rubbish from Isle Martin - an uninhabited island off Loch Broom in the west Highlands - and 'followed' this rubbish to its final resting places. 

I was excited to be briefly involved in this project, by accompanying Julia to dispose of her non-recyclable litter in landfill. You can read about this on Julia's blog post here. I'm all for anything that helps raise awareness of the issues related to waste and recycling, and Julia gave me some good ideas that I could add to the work I do with schools.

The whole project is very interesting (albeit somewhat depressing) so check out her blog for more details of her litter's journey to its final destinations, as well as further insights about what we can do to tackle this scourge of the seaside.